Pile of glacial debris / THU 3-1-12 / Kansas mil. post built in 1853 / Fly-catching birds / Peer of Ellington / Native parka wearer / Like unlucky encierro participant / Fish of genus Moringua
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Constructor: Steven E. Atwood
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Word of the Day: MORAINE (30A: Pile of glacial debris) —
An accumulation of boulders, stones, or other debris carried and deposited by a glacier.
[French, from French dialectal morena, mound of earth, from Provençal morre, muzzle, from Vulgar Latin *murrum.]
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Found this confusing and slightly awkward, starting with 1-Across. I had no idea AFFIX was a noun, presumably referring to either a prefix or a suffix (?). "Hey, nice AFFIX," he hollered. Doesn't sound right. But it's a word, alright. Plus the clue was so convoluted that it was essentially useless as a key to understanding the theme. I eventually saw that the answers were two words smushed together, so I just went with that. Theme answers thereafter weren't that hard to get (except PERSISTERLY ... the "sister" part was easy, but then there were these extra spaces ...). What was hard was the fill. I got hung up all over the place, both with odd words (FT. RILEY? MORAINE? PHOEBES?) (2D: Kansas mil. post built in 1853 + 30A: Pile of glacial debris + 46A: Fly-catching birds) and non-words (TYGER) (31A: When repeated, words before "burning bright" to start a William Blake poem) as well as barely-words (GERMIER) (43D: More likely to make you sick, say) (I had GROSSER and then WORMIER) and ambiguously-clued words (ROUTS) (51D: Runaways). This is the kind of theme that you could replicate indefinitely, right? Why not a Sunday? Pays (much) better.
- 17A: Unnecessary words cluttering wise sayings? (PROVERBIAGE)
- 25A: Threat in "Armageddon"? (DISASTEROID) — a little spot-on
- 35A: Good place for a picnic? (REPASTURE)
- 49A: Like a tenacious sibling? (PERSISTERLY)
- 57A: "We've taken the city, but can we defend it?"? (CONQUESTION) — shouldn't this clue have an "e.g." after it. Otherwise, the grammatical equivalency required in the clue/answer relationship is shot. Technically, cluing on TYGER is also grammatically screwed— "When repeated" has to modify something ... and it can't be "words" ... Why not [Word repeated before "burning bright" at the start of a William Blake poem]?
Some of the difficulty today came through genuinely clever cluing. I was baffled by 11A: Players who spend most of their time on the bench, briefly (DHS), probably because no one would refer to a DH as "on the bench"; that phrase specifically means "not in the game." But here, it's literal, so ... OK. Also flummoxed by 15A: Peer of Ellington (BASIE), with "Peer" making me think British peerage, as I'm sure it was supposed to. I was lucky enough to know the STORK Club and to remember that the stupid Italian TV channel was a number (TRE), and of course every solver worth his/her salt knows crosswordese like ALEUT (62A: Native parka wearer) and ARETE (63A: Sharp-crested ridge). But put "words" like "Moringua" or "encierro" in the clues, and I am in trouble (16A: Fish of the genus Moringua = EEL / 66A: Like an unlucky encierro participant = GORED). My slowest Thursday in a while. I gauge my times by two different A-level solvers on the NYT applet. Today, one beat me by a good two minutes but the other was a good two minutes behind, so I'll be surprised if this doesn't play at least somewhat harder than average for most people.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld